Copper Material Properties: Brass VS Red Copper

In electrical materials and commerce, there are many kinds of metals, so it has caused a lot of discussion in the manufacturing industry. These arguments are due to the inability of metal users to distinguish between various metal materials. Especially when the difference is very small and used as an energized conductor.

Red copper and brass are two kinds of metal materials that are often mixed together. When the two metals are placed side by side, you can notice that copper and brass look a bit similar. However, there are slight differences in color, and it requires a lot of professional knowledge to distinguish the two. To avoid using the wrong choices in your project, reading them may be crucial to a successful project. This post will explain these problems in detail to determine the difference between red copper and brass.

red copper and brass

What Is Red Copper?

Red copper, also called pure copper, is one of the earliest metals discovered, processed and utilized by human beings. This is because copper exists in a natural state. This pure metal was used in prehistoric times to make tools, weapons and decorations. Different from man-made brass, it is a kind of pure metal directly suitable for processing. Red copper can be used alone or combined with other alloys and pure metals to form a subset of alloys.

Red copper is composed of elements with high conductivity and thermal conductivity. In its purest form, it is soft and malleable. For thousands of years, it has been used as building elements and building materials of other alloys.

What Is Brass?

Brass is a copper alloy containing a certain amount of zinc. Therefore, this metal is often mistaken for copper. In addition, brass consists of other metals such as tin, iron, aluminum, lead, silicon, and manganese. The addition of these other metals contributes to a more unique combination of features. For example, the content of zinc in brass helps to improve the ductility and strength of brass based copper materials. The higher the zinc content in brass, the stronger the flexibility of the alloy. In addition, according to the amount of zinc added, its color can also range from red to yellow.

Brass is mainly used for decoration because it is similar to gold. In addition, because of its durability and processability, it is often used in the production of musical instruments.

Differences Between Red Copper And Brass

In this section, we will make a detailed comparison of the differences between brass and red copper, and then make a summary.

Element Composition

The two metals can be distinguished according to their elemental composition. As we said before, red copper has high conductivity. Its electronic structure is similar to that of silver and gold. As a metal, brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Different from red copper, it contains many elements according to its alloy form. The common element composition of brass includes its main components copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn).

Corrosion Resistance

Corrosion can also be used to distinguish the two metals. These two metals do not contain iron, so they are not easy to rust. After a period of oxidation, red copper will form green copper green. This prevents further corrosion of the copper metal surface. However, brass is an alloy of copper, zinc, and other elements that can also resist corrosion. In conclusion, compared with red copper, brass has a more golden color and stronger corrosion resistance.


The difference in conductivity of various metals is often unknown. However, assuming the conductivity of one material because it looks similar to another conductive material of known capacity can be disastrous for the project. This error is more or less obvious in the phenomenon of replacing red copper with brass in electrical applications.

In contrast, red copper is the conductivity standard for most materials. These measurements are expressed by relative measurements of red copper. This means that copper has no resistance and is 100% conductive in the absolute sense. On the other hand, brass is an alloy of copper, and its conductivity is only 28% of that of copper.

Thermal Conductivity

The thermal conductivity of a material is only a measure of its thermal conductivity. This kind of thermal conductivity varies with different metals, so it must be considered when the material needs to be used in high-temperature operating environment. The thermal conductivity of pure metals remains unchanged with the increase of temperature, while the thermal conductivity of alloys increases with the increase of temperature. In this case, red copper is a pure metal, while brass is an alloy metal. In contrast, red copper has the highest conductivity of 223 btu/ (HR · ft. f), while brass has the highest conductivity of 64 btu/ (HR · ft. f).


The hardness of a material is its ability to resist local deformation, which may come from the indentation of a predetermined geometric indenter on the metal plane under a predetermined load. As a metal, brass is stronger than red copper. In terms of hardness index, the hardness of brass ranges from 3 to 4. On the other hand, the hardness of red copper is 2.5 – 3 on the metal harness diagram. Brass is the product of different components of copper and zinc. The higher the zinc content, the better the hardness and ductility of brass.


The durability of materials refers to the ability of materials to maintain their functions without excessive repair or maintenance when they face normal operation challenges within their half-life. These two metals show almost the same level of durability in their respective projects. However, compared with brass, red copper shows the greatest flexibility.


Machinability of materials means that materials can be cut (processed) to obtain acceptable surface finish. Machining activities include milling, cutting, die casting, etc. Machinability can also be considered from the perspective of how to manufacture materials. In contrast, the machinability of brass is higher than that of red copper.


Copper is easier to weld than brass. However, all brass alloys except those containing lead are weldable. In addition, the smaller the zinc content in brass, the easier it is to weld. Therefore, brass with zinc content below 20% has good weldability, and brass with zinc content above 20% has good weldability. Finally, cast brass metal can only be barely welded.

As mentioned earlier, lead tin containing brass alloys are not solderable. Exposure to the input environment of high welding heat, high preheating and slow cooling rate must be avoided.


Red copper is a pure metal, while brass is an alloy of copper. Therefore, the color of copper is usually enough to distinguish red copper from brass. Red copper is usually reddish brown, while brass may exist in different colors, depending on its elemental composition, including golden yellow, reddish gold or silver.


The price of brass and copper may vary depending on the grade of material we compare. Although it may be different, red copper is usually the most expensive of the two materials. For brass, the low copper content led to a decline in prices.

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